Message from Montie

Music Archives

Donell Jones talks about 'Lost Files,' relationships, fatherhood and upcoming CD

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

 

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Courtesy of Candyman Music Inc., Photographer: Derek Blanks

There's a plethora of talent in Chicago, but it's not a secret that Chicago artists tend to go on the East Coast or West Coast to further their careers. R&B singer Donell Jones, who is  most popular for songs like "Shorty Got Her Eyes on Me" and "U Know What's Up" featuring the late TLC member Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, has cut ties with La Face record label after four CDs and gone independent with his label, Candyman Music Inc.

On December 9, 2009, Donell Jones released "The Lost Files," which were unreleased tracks made during the making of his first four CDs--"My Heart" (1996), "Where I Wanna Be" (1999), "Life Goes On" (2002) and "Journey of a Gemini" (2006). Now he's back in the studio working on his untitled 2010 CD. Although in his beginning years he had to travel to Washington D.C. for a radio conference to get his career going because "if you wasn't making music like R. Kelly, nobody was really checking for you" and loves his current home in Atlanta, which he's nicknamed "The Baby New York," when asked if he's from Chicago, he proudly boasts "Oh, no doubt!"

From the tilted hat, crease in his pants on his Twitter page, laid-back and sultry performances to his friendly demeanor during the interview with Shamontiel, Donell Jones is so Chicago.

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Alpha Kappa Alphas and Alpha Phi Alphas win Chicago Sprite Step Off

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

The AKAs are on a "mission" to win!

3/20/2010 Update: Click here to read about the Atlanta finale.1/24/2010: When I heard about the Sprite Step Off from FoxBrownFox and Commonground, I was sold from the beginning. But when SpriteStepOff.com advertised that it would be the largest step show in history, I was wondering how true that'd be. However, on Saturday night (Jan. 23) when I drove up to the Regal Theater and saw cars backed down the block of 1645 E. 79th St., and the line to get into the Regal around the corner, I knew this was going to be something serious. And the Regal completely sold out of tickets. Largest step show in history? Looked like it. But would it be the livest step show I'd ever seen? That was the test. I've seen many throughout my college years (Lincoln University alumni!), plus the numerous step shows I've seen all over the world even after I graduated.

Well, this Sprite Step Off was not playing around. Hands down the Sprite Step Off is definitely my all-time favorite step show, and it was definitely the livest!

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Updated 1/25/2010

The original winners announced at the Sprite StepOff on Sat., Jan. 23, were the following:

Sororities: $21,500 Alpha Kappa Alpha (first place); $16,000 Zeta Phi Beta (second place); $11,000 Alpha Theta Omega (third place)

Fraternities: $21,500 Alpha Phi Alpha (Central State University, first place);  $16,000 Phi Beta Sigma (second place); $11,000 Alpha Phi Alpha (St. Louis citywide chapter, third place)

 

However, 360i and FoxBrownFox PR were notified on Mon., Jan. 25, that there was a voting discrepancy for the sororities during Saturday night's event. According to the Sprite Facebook page, "In the spirit of sportsmanship, we also advised the other two teams who were originally announced as the second and third place winners (now third and fourth place winners), that we wanted them to keep the prize money they had been awarded." So here are the updated sorority winners with corrected prize amounts. 

Sororities: $21,500 Alpha Kappa Alpha (first place); $16,000 Sigma Gamma Rho (second place) and $16,000 Zeta Phi Beta (third place); $11,000 Alpha Theta Omega (fourth place)  

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But just telling you who the winners are doesn't do them any justice. You need proof, right? Check out some of the photos and a video of Greek strolling in the crowd that I took at the Sprite Step Off on Saturday, Jan. 23.

 

 

Gallery sneak peek (58 images):

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The Sprite Step Off, Ludacris and Wale come to Chicago Jan. 23

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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Promo flyer distributed courtesy of 360i

Update 3/20/2010: Click here to read about the Atlanta finals!

 

Have you seen the commercials about the Sprite Step Off, one of the self-proclaimed largest step show tournaments in history? I can't lie. I cheered when I received notice from Sprite that I got admission into this event. Watching step competitions was one of my favorite things to do after I transferred from Northern Michigan University to my alma mater Lincoln University.

 

Step shows were events that excited me since my elementary school days running home to see "A Different World," and it never wore off even through college--although I wasn't interested in pledging. But I sure do remember applauding for Freddie Brooks when she finally learned to step like Whitley Gilbert and watching Jaleesa Vinson represent for Gilbert Hall.

 

I first heard about the Sprite Step Off while interviewing marketing company Commonground's owners Ahmad Islam and Sherman Wright.

 

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Shane Sparks choreography best on 'SYTYCD,' Sparks arrested for child molestation charges

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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Getty Images, courtesy of ChicagoTribune.com

Throughout this entire season of "So You Think You Can Dance," I've noticed that the judges have been very skeptical about the hip hop choreographers and the selections the choreographers are giving to the dancers. Dave Scott was accused of giving Ashleigh Di Lello and Legacy Perez a vampire hip hop routine that was not challenging enough for their stage in the competition. Choreographers Tabitha and Napoleon were told the routine they gave Ellenore Scott and Legacy Perez as hip hop aliens was a little too strange and the masks were distracting. I agreed with both judges and understood their discontent with some of the dance routines.

 

The reality is that nobody was creating harder and more challenging routines in hip hop choreography than Shane Sparks. I think the judges were spoiled by him, but when he stopped being a judge on "So You Think You Can Dance" and left for "America's Best Dance Crew," they were left with a lull. He'd re-appeared and disappeared the past couple seasons but never as a regular judge. And even when he created a dance routine, it was unfortunately not performed by one of the original dancers--Ashleigh Di Lello because of a shoulder injury and Shane Sparks' assistant did a mediocre job of dancing with "So You Think You Can Dance?" winner, Russell Ferguson.

 

Lil' C spends too much time trying to use vocabulary I don't remotely believe he uses in his everyday conversation, so it always bugs me to see him on the panel although his krumping routines are okay. I actually do like most of Tabitha and Napoleon's routines, but none of them had the funk that Shane Sparks was bringing.

 

But judging from today's TMZ report, it looks like Shane Sparks may be unavailable for a pretty long time for both "America's Best Dance Crew" and "So You Think You Can Dance?"

 

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Dilemma for a Chris Brown fan, buy 'Graffiti' or boycott it because of domestic violence against Rihanna?

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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Chris Brown released his latest CD "Graffiti" on Dec. 8

I have zero tolerance for domestic violence, and I feel like if people can't keep their hands to themselves that relationship needs to cease immediately. So with this attitude in mind, I really had a dilemma on my hands because I'd been a long-time fan of Chris Brown since his "Run It" days and bought all of his music. Was I going to boycott Chris Brown's new CD "Graffiti" because of the issues with Rihanna? Should I buy Rihanna's CD in support of her decision to speak up on "Good Morning America" even though I've never been a fan of her music? Or, should I buy Chris Brown's CD anyway as a supporter of his music but not his choices? I chose the last one.

 

Everyone seems to have opinions on whether Chris Brown was justified in the fight with Rihanna. Diehard fans swear up and down that Rihanna did something wrong and she deserved it. I think that statement is ridiculous. I don't care what a woman verbally says. Rihanna never deserved the butt whooping handed to her in February 2009. But I can't go so far as to say nobody deserves to be dealt with because it's not like I've never been in a fight. I can't even say I've never been in a fight with a guy because I have--once. It didn't last long though, but I can see how anger gets the best of a person and I didn't start that fight. (I didn't lose the fight either, by the way, but fighting is nothing to brag about. However, I never spoke to that guy again for the rest of my life.) I hear the accusations that Rihanna hit Chris Brown first, but we all know her strength does not compare to his. And then what if Rihanna didn't hit him at all, and Chris Brown just beat the living daylights out of her for the reasons in the police report?

 

I even thought about the accusations that if a man hits you once, he will hit you again. But I was frustrated by that belief because I know of two marriages with one partner who hit the other and then it never happened again, even years later. But to be fair, I have heard and known other couples who had one partner who was consistently abusive. Which category would Chris Brown fall in? Could he beat the odds?

 

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Raheem DeVaughn's 'Bulletproof' is modern day version of Marvin Gaye's 'Inner City Blues'

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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There is no R&B artist that I like more than Marvin Pentz Gaye Jr. His music was just as relevant when he started out in the late '50s as it is now, and one of my favorite songs of his is "Inner City Blues (Makes Me Want to Holler)." The issues that Marvin Gaye talked about in that song are just as on point in 2009 as they were when the song first came out in the early 1970s--inflation, the struggle with paying bills, increasing crime, war overseas and taxes. Sound familiar?

 

Born on April 2, 1939 in Washington D.C., Marvin Gay aka Marvin Gaye (who later added the "e" to "Gaye" when he signed up with Motown) started off traveling with his father at the age of five, singing in church conventions and took off singing all kinds of music from 1957 with the Marquees until he went solo.

 

I don't think there's a singer who has put out the same amount of sexy, smooth and political tracks that he's put out with equal success. Marvin Gaye was still seen as an intelligent sex symbol (and grew even more handsome with age), and that really made me dig his music, especially with political songs like "What's Going On?" and "Inner City Blues (Makes Me Want to Holler)" played right before I blasted "Ego Trippin'," "Sexual Healing" and "Let's Get It On."

 

But who says Marvin Gaye has to be the only artist who can perfect R&B sexy grooves and politics too? (Fairly) new artist Raheem DeVaughn, who is also a native of Washington D.C., sure did do quite a job with his latest single, "Bulletproof."
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Mixed reaction on Twitter to Rihanna speaking out about domestic abuse on 'Good Morning America,' forehead trending topic

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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In this publicity image released by ABC, Diane Sawyer, left, interviews singer Rihanna about her relationship with ex-boyfriend Chris Brown in New York. The interview aired on the morning program "Good Morning America," Thursday, Nov. 5, 2009, and will also air Friday on the prime time news program "20/20: Good Morning America". (AP Photo/ABC, Ida Mae Astute)

A week before Valentine's Day, R&B singer Chris Brown was being investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department for assault on his then-girlfriend pop star Rihanna. After the February 8 notorious fight that put Rihanna in the hospital with a bruised face, an image of her face taken by LAPD was then posted on TMZ's Web site. Nine months later, Rihanna finally spoke out after Chris Brown had already issued a public apology on his Web site and gone on CNN's "Larry King Live." In the interview on ABC's "20/20: Good Morning America" on Nov. 6 at 9 pm, Rihanna talked about what a woman goes through after being physically abused.

 

The terms "Rihanna" and "Chris Brown" immediately became trending topics on Twitter.com, but another topic to hit the top of the trending topics was "#rihannasforehead." Rihanna had finally decided to talk to the public about how horrifying, embarrassing and personal this tragedy was between her and someone she was in love with, and Twitter users treated it like a joke with tweets like "While driving up #RihannasForehead, I had to fill up twice and got lost three times!" (1:53 am) and "Can #rihannasforehead compete with #tyrasforehead" (1:53 am). Some Twitter users were not amused by this trending topic, declaring "#rihannasforehead This is the most mean and hateful thing ever. You people have no hearts. Rihanna is beautiful inside and out" (1:53 am) and "I C #rihannasforehead is trending, wow, people can be so rude, how do you think she's gonna feel when she C's this." (1:52 am)

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Chicago's The New 400 Theater releases Michael Jackson's 'This Is It' but crowd numbers are mediocre

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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Shamontiel thinking she's "bad" (R.I.P. MJ)

I kept hearing the buzz about Michael Jackson's "This Is It," and initially I was not going to see the film. It seemed like a way for other people to get rich instead of honoring the King of Pop's final footage after 10 years of being silent. But The New 400 Theater (located at 6746 N. Sheridan in Chicago's Rogers Park) had the film, and oftentimes I have to go to more expensive and bigger theaters to see the mainstream films. Free popcorn Tuesdays. Evening films are only $7.50, and the first release was tonight at 11:00 p.m. How could I miss out on a deal like that?

 

I bought my ticket as soon as the theater opened today at 4:30 p.m. to beat the crowd and left an hour early to get a good parking spot in the Rogers Park area, where parking spots after 7:00 p.m. are almost pointless. I got my free popcorn and munched on it in my car before "This Is It" started, but when I went back inside, there was only a small crowd. I thought that was so strange because friends and family were telling me "This Was It" was sold out at theaters around them. I figured I was going to have to fight for a seat, but there were full rows with no one in them. What gives? Did others have the same suspicious beliefs I originally did about not supporting a film trying to get rich off of MJ's legacy, were you as surprised as I was that the film made it to The New 400 Theater, or did you just not want to go on a weeknight?

 

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Robin Thicke will visit Chicago on Oct. 28 to introduce 'Sex Therapy' and Hugo Boss Element cologne

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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Robin Thicke at Chicago's Rednofive

Robin Thicke fans, are you ready to meet him? Mr. "Complicated" and "Lost Without You" R&B artist extraordinaire will be visiting Macy's in Chicago, IL on Oct. 28.

 

If you're one of the first 150 customers to purchase Hugo Boss Element men's fragrance for $65 at Macy's (starting from store opening), you'll get the chance to meet Robin Thicke and get an autographed copy of his new single, "Sex Therapy" from his upcoming album, also called "Sex Therapy." He'll also be performing a couple of songs if time permits.

 

Location Information:
Wednesday, October 28, 12pm
Macy's State Street - Fragrance Arcade
111
North State Street
Chicago, IL 60602

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Music group The Myriad partners with HSUS to promote animal rights

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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Souvenirs for The Myriad

 Before this week, I had no idea who The Myriad was. Outside of Aerosmith, Roisin Murphy, Ace of Base and Marilyn Manson, I'm pretty much an R&B and hip hop lover, but when the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) told me about The Myriad's concert to bring awareness to animal cruelty, I looked this group up. The Myriad has accomplished some outstanding things, including earning MTV's 2008 Artist of the Week and MTV2's 2007 Dew Circuit Breakout competition, and their 2008 album, "With Arrows, With Poise" was a number 13 debut on the Billboard Heatseekers , in addition to being a top 40 album on iTunes.

 

Music artists Tyrone Wells and Matt Hires also teamed up for a Fall 2009 tour with HSUS's faith outreach program around the country to talk about animal rights activism. They hit up Chicago on Saturday, Oct. 10, at Lakeshore Theater, located at 3175 N. Broadway St.

 

The songs were pretty good, and I shook my head at the creepy story they told about a band member who slept in the basement of what was believed to be a haunted house. Now they can't find him. (Timing is everything, I guess, since Halloween is around the corner.) During a break between songs, the audience found out that the drummer had a major medical issue before The Myriad went on tour, but his doctor agreed to let him travel anyway. I'd like to thank the drummer's doctor because I was completely impressed by the drummer's funk and skill playing his instrument. On top of that, for the intensity of his health issues, I give him the utmost respect for even agreeing to go on tour.

 

Wells and The Myriad performed between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m., a video for the HSUS and the Myriad played and audience members were asked to text message to a certain number in order to win a free shirt.

 

 





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August Wilson's 'Ma Rainey's Black Bottom' play is deja vu for 2009

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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Photo credit: Michael Brosilow

August Wilson's "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" play, the only play that Wilson created to be set on the South Side of Chicago, is running from Sept. 17-Oct. 18. The press opening was Sunday, Oct. 27, at 7:30 p.m., and there wasn't an empty seat in Hyde Park's Court Theatre, located at 5535 S. Ellis Ave.

 

"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" play is set in the 1920s and revolves around Ma Rainey and her blues band. According to the press release, the original "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" opened on Broadway on Oct. 11, 1984, received the 1985 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award for Best American Play and Tony Award nominations for Best Play, Best Actor and Best Actress. The play was named for a real-life blues singer named Ma Rainey who recorded music with jazz musicians like Louis Armstrong and Bessie Smith, was nicknamed "The Mother of the Blues," and she was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1983 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.

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Video: Chicago's Hyde Park Jazz Festival 2009

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

Check out some of the performing artists from the Hyde Park Jazz Festival: Richie Cole, Orbert Davis and Chicago's Sax in the City.




To check out a recap of the Hyde Park Jazz Festival 2009, visit the following links:
Chicago's Hyde Park Jazz Festival 2009 was a success, Richie Cole turned it out
Chicago's Hyde Park Jazz Festival brings the melody this Saturday

Chicago's Hyde Park Jazz Festival 2009 was a success, Richie Cole turned it out

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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Sometimes I do volunteer work and feel like a good Samaritan, but I don't leave feeling like I want to do it again. That is until today after I finished volunteering for the annual Hyde Park Jazz Festival. I was at the Hyde Park Union Church from 2:30 pm to 8:00 pm, and initially I wondered how jazz music was going to go down in a church, but it's not like it was some hardcore hip hop so I knew it'd be all right. And it definitely was. Folks lined up by the door, and one lady tried to rush in an hour before the doors opened to get a good seat but was turned back around. Considering I'd never been to the Hyde Park Jazz Festival before, I took that as my cue that it was going to be a serious turnout.

 

And when the first show started with Ari Brown at 3:30 pm, people came from everywhere (peacefully and well-mannered) through the doors. It was a full house for Everett Greene at 5:00 p.m., and the same went for my favorite group of the night at the Hyde Park Union Church--Richie Cole at 7:00 p.m.

  

Gallery sneak peek (10 images):

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Forget "Death of Auto-Tune," let's kill gangsta rap glorifying

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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Part 1: The Vocoder vs. Auto-Tune

 

Roger & Zapp were using vocoders to create "Computer Love" in 1983. Everybody was dancing to Tupac Shakur and Dre's vocoder chorus to "California Love" in 1996. In Cher's 2003 hit single "Believe," she tried out a vocoder as well. Blackstreet played around with computer singing in "Deep" from their 2003 album "Level II."  And then came Auto-Tune, which is frequently confused with a vocoder because of the computer melody, but it's not the same recording utility and the voice doesn't sound the same. XXLMag.com does confirm that Auto-Tune "uses a form of vocoding to achieve its process" though and uses Black Eyed Peas' will.i.am song "Impatient" as an example of the difference between the vocoder and Auto-Tune.

 

By now anybody who is a fan of hip hop and rap knows that T-Pain made Auto-Tune far more popular than it had been decades before after he released 2005 songs like "I'm Sprung" and "I'm N Luv (Wit a Stripper)" from his "Rappa Ternt Sanga" album and then with 2007 songs like "Bartender" and "Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin')" from his "Epiphany" album.

 

However, there is a misconception that T-Pain uses Auto-Tune on every single, which isn't true for hit songs like 2005's "Church" and in parts of 2008's "Can't Believe It" from his "Thr33Ringz" album. At WGCI's Big Jam 2008, T-Pain also sang "Can't Believe It" live without Auto-Tune and sounded just about the same. However, there's no question that T-Pain's biggest hits were those using Auto-Tune, and other artists like Kanye West, Soulja Boy, Lil' Wayne and R. Kelly took notice.

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Chicago celebrates the UniverSoul Circus coming to Chitown

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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I used to say I didn't like the circus. Clowns freak me out. The threatening sound of whips make me think of animal cruelty. And circus music reminds me of horror flicks. My family has dragged me to quite a few circuses in my younger years (specifically my mother who has a bit of an obsession with elephants, and no, she's not a Delta Sigma Theta member). But I'd never been to the UniverSoul Circus before, and after leaving there tonight during opening night, Sept. 23, I can never say I don't like circuses again. The term "soul" is an understatement. UniverSoul Circus brings the funk, the rhythm, the heart and the love of music to the most outstanding circus I've ever seen in my life.

 

UniverSoul Circus was founded by Baltimore, Maryland native Cedric Walker. According to UniverSoulCircus.com, Walker and his brother Frank enjoyed circuses since they were little. Walker had an obvious love for the music industry considering he became a producer and stage manager for R&B group the Commodores, a promoter for the Jackson 5, organized a rap music tour called the Fresh Festival with rappers Run DMC, Salt n' Pepa and the Fat Boys, and he helped produce gospel plays "Wicked Ways" and "A Good Man Is Hard to Find."

 

And in 1994, Walker blended his love for music and the circus to create the family friendly UniverSoul Circus. Sixteen years later and it's still a hit.

 

Gallery sneak peek (38 images):

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Chicago's Hyde Park Jazz Festival brings the melody this Saturday

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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There are three things I automatically do (in this order) when I'm frustrated or sad: clean, go to aerobics class or listen to jazz. However, I've also been accused of being obsessive compulsive, health conscious (I'm a
vegetarian too) and a music lover, so nobody really knows my mood when I do any of the above. And while cleaning or aerobics classes give me a temporary boost, jazz music usually keeps me in an easygoing mood all day. I played the alto saxophone and piano in my elementary and high school years so music has always been dear to me, although I suck at playing those instruments nowadays. But when the chance arose to volunteer for the Hyde Park Jazz Festival this Saturday, Sept. 26, I immediately signed up.
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Jay-Z's "The Blueprint 3" is the blueprint of what a hip hop CD should be

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Message from Montie

Shamontiel is the author of two novels: "Change for a Twenty" and "Round Trip." Check her out at shamontiel.com.

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Jay-Z "The Blueprint 3"

In the October 2009 issue of XXL Magazine, the reporter asked cover story artist Jay-Z what was more important--fortune or fame. What I wondered while listening to Jay-Z's latest CD was what hip hop lovers felt was more important--beats or lyrics. When I was really young, I was listening to lyricists like MC Lyte, Grandmaster Flash, Whodini and Queen Latifah. Then somewhere along the line beats started outweighing lyrics, and I could juke to some of the most degrading songs if the beat was hot (ex. Ying Yang Twin's "Get Low [The Whisper Song]"). But what I've learned throughout the years is that the older I get, the more important lyrics become to me, and Jay-Z is one of the few artists that can bring quality lyrics to danceable beats and please both audiences.

 

As the saying goes, with age comes wisdom, and every time Jay-Z puts out a CD like his latest, "The Blueprint 3," it gets that much better and has that much more growth. There are those who believe that rapping is a young man's game. I disagree. I believe hip hop is a lyrical man's game. I'd choose a Rakim or Ice Cube CD over the latest dance craze hard knock thug life CD. I prefer soulful conscious hip hop like that of my favorite rapper Mos Def, who is younger than all three but obviously could care less about saying what's "cool" or "hard" to say. I'm bored with the thought of hip hop artists thinking "we need to get back to the hood." No, we need to get back to what's good.

 

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